Now to my point. I have been hearing and reading stories regarding "dictatorial tendencies" or non-collective decision-making by some Kinijit leaders. I take in these stories and think of a couple of things.
The first is that, as this is the first genuinely inclusive opposition party that really integrated itself into the fabric of Ethiopian society, people have made it more than what it is. They seem to have forgotten that this party is made up of individual human beings who are fallible. It has and will, stumble, fall, fracture, make mistakes, and go through all the follies other human-formed organizations must, at one time or another. Therefore, it should not surprise anyone when Kinijit fumbles. Somehow though, because of their amazing ability to galvanize the Ethiopian people before and during the 2005 elections and their fearless confrontation with the government, leaders of Kinijit have been elevated to the status of super-human beings who can do no wrong. Some of the leaders, sadly, have also come to believe this. As recently as a week ago, one of the leaders has said that the party made no mistakes! This is the type of belief that will fracture Kinijit even faster. ( If you ask me, the mistakes that Kinijit made actually extended the life of a regime that was on the verge of committing suicide. But I leave this discussion for another day.) Also, let's not forget that these are politicians with big egos. ( People with small egos don't get into politics. If they do, they stay on the fringes performing supporting roles. For these folks, the view is always nice from the cheap seats.) So, when one politician with a big ego feels that his/her name is not seen in as a bright a light as the next politician with a massive ego, all kinds of dynamics occur, including leaking stories such as "so and so is a dictator, while I, on the other hand, am a true democrat who believes in 'deliberative democracy'." Some of the rumors about 'dictatorial tendencies' certainly emanate from such petty attitudes. One thing we must convince ourselves of is that we do not elect politicians for their purity in every aspect of their lives. We follow them for their ability to bring people and resources around worthy causes and getting the right things done to help their constituency/country.
Second, this thing about the so called "deliberative" democracy needs to be looked at seriously. There is no proof that communal deliberation is always a good thing. However, the generation that cut its teeth when socialism was in vogue seems to think that every decision has to be deliberated upon. Veering slightly off tangent for a second, one of the worst sins of Kinijit was its need to 'deliberate' with the public whether it should join parliament or not! How ludicrous was that!! At that time my thought was, "if these people get to power, are we going to have to meet every other day at Qebele to tell them how to decide on every issue?"
Therefore, Kinijit, as unbelievable as it may seem to those with eyes deliberately wide shut, will fall prey to individual fallabilities. Remember, even Lidetu Ayalew was once a member of Kinijit. It is as certain, as the day is long, that others will also leave the party and new ones will join. This is not weakness. It is just how the life of the party will continue (no pun intended here)
Thank you for the comments. You have certainly raised three very important issues. Let me first deal with your skepticism of deliberative democracy. I didn't use deliberative democracy as a synonym to public deliberation. Neither did the CUD during the election. Obviously, if the concept of political equality is taken in its fullest sense, it may call for direct mass participation. But that undermines the value of deliberation - political discourse based on information, attention to the issues and understanding of the interest of others. Political equality taken in that sense also puts another ideal - non-tyranny of the majority- at risk. It endangers the non-political rights of the minority - freedoms of the moderns - unless we put those rights as trumps and, therefore, as constraints to democracy. During the election the CUD, I remember, had proposed putting those rights as inviolable values. Yet it didn't go far with that because putting rights as trumps needed the total overhaul of the constitutional provisions which clearly deny the judiciary the power to interpret the constitution. So the choice for the CUD then was to adopt the conception of deliberative democracy, a conception which reconciles deliberation based on the idea of public reason, political equality and non-tyranny.
The devil, however, sits in the details, and I have to agree that some of the application of that conception during and after the election was rather messy even though I don't count the example you raised - the public debate about joining or not joining parliament - as one of those messy applications.
Now to your second point. I fully agree that there is a tendency to grandiosity among us, the pro-democracy camp. We may have made Kinijit, as you said, more than it is. I think it is the nature of the other camp and the history of other political groupings which have caused this tendency and the tendency has definitely fed the egos of some politicians in kinijit. That is why we have to be very careful in avoiding the equation I raised in my earlier article when we analyze something like the recent problem in Kinijit. An important personality in the organization may have serious complaints against the democratic decision of the council or any authoritative body. We may side with him on that, and criticize the decision of Kinijit as a party. But that doesn't reduce the value of democracy as ultimately on balance the decisions that are made democratically are better (whatever the value) than the decisions that are made undemocratically. That doesn't also mean that the person who has serious complaints can make the party hostage to his whims. If you remember, some of the grievances Lidetu aired against the democratic decisions of the council were rather serious, and at least demanded our investigation. Yet he made the wrong move in his attempt to split the party, and was finally shown the exit door.
I also take your third point about the value of strong individual leaders to heart. We need them. The party needs to give them power and resources to organize and rally people around worthy values. But the power has to come from the party. The leaders shouldn't assume it by themselves based on self-evaluation. That is usurpation of power.